“If you ask me, ‘Will the Yankees chase Lee Jeong-hoo?’ I think they will”
In an article titled “Will the New York Yankees pursue two international stars?”, The Athletic took questions from fans about Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Oryx Buffaloes) and Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes), who will be challenging for the major leagues after this season.
Born in 1998, both Lee and Yamamoto will be knocking on the door of the major leagues through the posting system at the end of this season. They have already prepared for their big league debuts. First, Lee spoke with Kiwoom last offseason to express his desire to play in the major leagues, and he also teamed up with Scott Boras, the “devil’s agent,스포츠토토” to prepare for the big leagues.
The same goes for Yamamoto. Yamamoto has made no secret of his desire to play in the majors. While the Orix hasn’t officially endorsed Yamamoto’s move to the big leagues, there are no major obstacles. Yamamoto recently signed a contract with Joel Wolf of the American Waserman. Wolfe has been responsible for the signings of several Japanese players, including Darvish Yu (San Diego Padres), Seiya Suzuki (Chicago Cubs), and Kodai Senga (New York Mets).
They are among the top players in the KBO and Nippon Professional Baseball. Lee burst onto the scene in 2017 when he was drafted first overall by the Nexen (now Kiwoom) Heroes and was crowned Rookie of the Year, and has since appeared in 884 games over seven seasons, batting .340 with 65 home runs, 515 RBIs, 581 runs scored, 69 doubles, and a .898 OPS. Last season, in particular, he had a “career-high” season with 13 doubles, 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, 85 runs scored and a .349 batting average in 142 games, winning five batting titles along with regular season MVP honors.
A game between Samsung and Kiwoom in the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ at Gocheok Sky Dome on October 10, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea. Kiwoom’s Lee Jung-hoo sprinted to first base after hitting an infield grounder in the bottom of the eighth inning./My Daily
Kiwoom plays against Samsung during the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on October 10, 2023. Kiwoom’s Lee Jung-hoo greets fans after the game after coming in as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning./MyDaily
Lee has been on the sidelines this year due to an ankle injury, but has recently returned to the first team and has been training with the squad. While it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to play the rest of the season as he’s not 100%, he’s still fit enough to play as a substitute, especially against the Samsung Lions on the 10th. For now, he’s trying to improve his body before heading to the major leagues.
Yamamoto is an “ace” not only for his team, the Orix, but also for Nippon Professional Baseball and the national team. Yamamoto was selected by the Ducks in the fourth round of the 2016 Nippon Professional Baseball Draft and has been a starter since the 2019 season, posting a 70-29 record with 32 holds and a 1.82 ERA in 172 career games (including two no-hitters). In particular, from 2021 to this year, he won the pitching title for the “first time in history” for three consecutive years, and in the last two seasons, he won the Sawamura Award along with the MVP.
Currently, there are more than a few teams interested in Lee and Yamamoto. However, the New York Yankees have shown the most interest. Lee has been linked to the Yankees in the local media, and Yamamoto’s recent no-hitter was intuited by general manager Brian Cashman. After missing the postseason this year and finishing fourth in the American League East, there are high expectations for the team to bolster its lineup.
Samsung and Kiwoom during the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ at Gocheok Sky Dome on October 10, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea. Kiwoom’s Lee Jung-hoo watches a foul ball as he comes up as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning./My Daily
In the meantime, The Athletic has once again linked Lee to the Yankees. When asked, “Will the Yankees pursue Japan’s Yamamoto and Korea’s Lee,” the outlet responded, “The Yankees’ interest in Yamamoto has been solidified. Cashman was in Japan to watch Yamamoto throw a no-hitter on the day they celebrated their 1998 World Series victory. “Yamamoto will be the most coveted player in this free agency,” he said, “and the competition for him will be fierce.
The Athletic continued, “Speaking of Lee, the Yankees will certainly be watching him in free agency. “The Yankees scouted Lee this season,” said Jim Bowden of The Athletic, “and he was ranked as the 27th-best free agent by The Athletic’s Jim Bowden. The 25-year-old was South Korea’s MVP in 2022, but suffered an ankle injury this year. However, Lee hit .319 with six home runs and 45 RBIs in 85 games,” the article noted.
While the Yankees are keeping a close eye on Lee, the media also mentioned the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants as possible contenders for Lee’s services. General manager Pete Putilla recently visited the Gocheok SkyDome to watch Lee work out, and even though Lee didn’t play in the game, he stayed in Gocheok for several days and gave Lee a standing ovation at the end of his at-bat in his farewell game with the home fans on Oct. 10.
‘The Athletic’ writes, “Major league teams will be interested in Lee’s solid outfield defense and the fact that he has drawn more walks (383) than strikeouts (304) in his career. “If you ask me, ‘Will the Yankees go after him?’ I think they will, but San Diego and San Francisco, with Kim Ha-Sung, have also been linked to him.” “He hit 23 home runs last season, and that number could increase given his beautiful swing and the short right field fence at Yankee Stadium.
As time passes and winter approaches, the list of teams that have expressed interest in Lee is becoming more concrete. What’s clear is that the Yankees and San Francisco are very serious about Lee.